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Defense calls first witnesses in Tioga murder trial

GRAND FORKS — The defense in the trial of a man accused of stabbing his friend to death called its first witnesses Friday, including defendant’s ex-fiancée and mother.

Ryan Neil Anderson is charged with murder in the death of Christopher King, who was stabbed twice in the chest and twice in the abdomen at a crew camp near Tioga, northeast of Williston, last year.

Before the stabbing, Anderson and his crew members had been arguing into the early morning hours in the commons room of their housing unit after a night at the bar watching the mixed-martial-arts fights.

The defense is alleging Anderson acted in self defense.

His ex-fiancée, Rebecca Rogers, testified Friday in state district court in Grand Forks that there had been fights between Anderson and King prior to the night of the stabbing. She also testified that everyone in the commons room the night of the stabbing was badmouthing Anderson.

Rogers said that King would make the most personal comments to Anderson, like “I’m a better father to your daughter than you are.” Rogers and Anderson have a 4-year-old daughter together.

She said at one point in the “nonstop arguing,” King started to choke Anderson, whose face turned purple and eyes rolled back.

Kathy Anderson, Ryan’s mother, also took the stand and testified Ryan had called her on the phone and told her three people had “choked him out.”

Moments before the stabbing, Rogers said, King jumped off the couch where he was sitting and said, “Alright, (expletive). Now you’re going to get it.”

She also testified that, on the night of the stabbing, though she was fighting with Anderson, he never put a hand on her.

David Nardi, who worked under Anderson in the oilfields and was present at the time of the stabbing, testified on Tuesday that Anderson slammed Rogers against the common room fridge that night, which he said incited him and others to attack Anderson.

Rogers, in turn, testified that Nardi had slammed Anderson onto the ground after Anderson knocked the drink she was preparing for herself out of her hand. She said Anderson’s head hit the wall when Nardi “took him down” and that he had his hands around Anderson’s neck.